Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse – Gods, Monsters, Monster Hunters, and a Wickedly Awesome Adventure Across the Dinétah

Text: TRAIL OF LIGHTNING, The Sixth World, by Rebecca Roanhorse. Image: A Native-American woman holding a shotgun in one hand and a knife in the other, standing on top of a car and looking away from the camera. Lightning strikes down the image. On the top-right corner, a stamp with Xiaolong the pink axolotl wearing an upside down purple hat, with the text "REVIEWED BY CW, THE QUIET POND"
Summary:

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

My review:

Edit (11 Feb 2019): After publishing this review, I was made aware of this article that addresses the issues of Trail of Lightning. I highly recommend reading this, as it addresses some of the issues regarding representation and appropriation within the book.

It’s not often that I use ‘cool’ to describe a book; ‘brilliant’ and ‘wonderful’ seem to be my go-to adjectives, but ‘cool’? Cool is now a word I want to exclusively use to describe Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. Trail of Lightning is a Native-American inspired urban fantasy that takes place in the Navajo reservation following a post-climate-apocalypse. Enter Maggie, a gifted monster hunter who lives in this new world, and her journey across the reservation to uncover the mystery of a brutal monster and the truths she won’t face about her past.

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The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan – An Evocative Story of Biraciality, Mental Illness & Family

A white bird against a red-purple background, with the text THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, Emily X.R. Pan, a novel in its center.
Summary:

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

My review:

Note: The following review will discuss depression and suicide.

The Astonishing Colour of After is a poignant and evocative story about mental illness, family, identity, and grief. It tells of a biracial teenage, Leigh, and her search for her mother, who Leigh believes has transformed into red bird following her suicide. And thus she follows her mother’s feathers to Taiwan where, there, she not only meets her estranged grandparents but also discovers her family history, the secrets, and the truths about her mother.

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Jade City by Fonda Lee – Asian-influenced Urban Fantasy + Martial Art + Magical Jade = The Most Amazing Book I’ve Read, Ever

Xiaolong the axolotl holding her arms up, with green, glowing, and sparkly jade bangles on her wrists.

Xiaolong waddles to you, holding a thick green book and her staff in her little hands.

“Friend!” she calls, her eyes twinkling and her pink gills perky. “I just read the most amazing book. But before I tell you about it, look at the spell I came up with!”

She puts down the book, and waves her staff once clockwise, then counter-clockwise, and POOF!

Xiaolong the axolotl, wearing jade bangles and punching the air with her right arm.

With a puff of smoke and golden sparkle-dust, two perfectly fitting jade bangles appear around Xiaolong’s wrists! She throws a punch once (though her little hands don’t have much reach; she is a spellcaster, not a martial artist, after all!), then twice, and next she’s doing a quick succession of jabs, the jade bangles crackling with power.

Scared that she might hurt herself (or you), you ask her, “So… what is this book about?”

She stops, blinks up at you. “Oh yes friend! Thank you for reminding me.” Xiaolong plops onto the ground next to the book, still wearing her jade bangles, and holds the book’s cover out for you to see. “So, this book is called Jade City…”

Text: JADE CITY, Fonda Lee. Round 'button' on bottom-right showing
Summary:

FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING.

Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.

Jade City begins an epic tale of family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of jade and blood.

My review:

Jade City is an Asian-influenced urban fantasy that pays homage to gangster dramas, and has elements of wuxia. But it’s more than just that – Jade City is a masterpiece that has everything from gripping fights between powerful warriors called Green Bones, to the politics of war, territory battles and family, to the tender moments of love, dedication, honour, and loss.

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